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Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2023-02-22



Pride at Work's head discusses Brunei, women's groups
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Terri-Lynne Waldron

This article shared 3247 times since Tue Jul 15, 2014
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Pride at Work recently appointed openly gay activist and advocate Jerame Davis as the interim executive director of its Washington, D.C., headquarters.

Pride at Work is a constituency group that organizes mutual support between the organized Labor Movement and the LGBT community for social and economic justice. One of the first orders of business with Davis as the executive director was the demand from Pride at Work and other LGBT organizations that the Obama Administration cease further negotiations of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free-trade agreement with Brunei.

That country has enacted a strict new penal code that targets LGBT groups, women and religious minorities. Gay men, lesbians and those convicted of adultery, will be stoned to death for these supposed "crimes." Windy City Times spoke with Davis about the United States negotiating TPP with Brunei, the letter to the president and support from women's groups.

Windy City Times: On June 12, there were two separate letters sent out—one to President Obama and the other to Secretary of State John Kerry—from Pride at Work in conjunction with other national LGBT organizations. Has there been a response as of yet?

Jerame Davis: There is time until the final deal is made. The timeline is on the TPP now—thanks a lot to the work being done by the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and a number of other labour unions and trade coalitions.

Originally, the coalitions goal was to have a Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal done by the end of 2013. It's now looking like they won't have one done before the end of 2014. Right now, Congress is stalled on the matter. In order for the deal to happen, the first thing that President Obama needs is what's called fast-track authority, which is Congress giving up their constitutional authority to negotiate trade deals and giving that to the president.

WCT: Is everyone for or against fast-track authority?

Jerame Davis: Everyone agrees on every side of the issue that the TPP wont happen without fast-track because the deal is too complicated for Congress to get in there and start meddling with. The proponents don't want that to happen because the 11 other countries that are involved don't want to negotiate with 535 members of Congress.

WCT: Did the Obama Administration have prior knowledge of the inhumane treatment that some of the people have endured in Brunei?

Jerame Davis: I think that Brunei caught them a little off-guard. I don't know how much back and forth they were having with Brunei before Brunei enacted this new sharia law (that would punish same-sex acts with the death penalty). There was an announcement from Brunei that it was coming and we knew that they were considering the law. I cannot imagine that the Administration did not know that as well. Certainly the U.S. trade representative knew since he is intimately involved with all of these countries negotiating this trade deal. It's the State Department's job to keep up with what these other countries are doing, so I can't imagine that they don't know and didn't know.

WCT: But the letter that the LGBT organizations sent out may have helped to bring it to their attention?

Jerame Davis: Our letter was to highlight how little sense it made and to make the very clear demand to the president that Brunei should no longer be included in this deal if it's going to go forward.

WCT: Have there been other groups that have come forward?

Jerame Davis: There were 12 women's groups who also sent a separate letter that was lead by the Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF). They were the lead authors on the letter and it was signed by 11 other women's groups. Some of the other groups are the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and the National Organization for Women (NOW).

WCT: Can the U.S. demand that if these countries continue to abuse human-rights policies, then they will no longer do business with them?

Jerame Davis: If there's nothing in the agreement, then there is nothing that we can really do other than talk to them. If the TPP is enacted, one of the big provisions that a lot of activist groups don't like is what's called Investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS). So if we're talking about a U.S. company like ExxonMobil, they may want to open a refinery in Brunei. With this ISDS provision in place, it essentially gives ExxonMobil veto rights over local laws that Brunei might want to put in place.

WCT: How would not doing business with Brunei effect the U.S. in a negative way?

Jerame Davis: The underlying goal of the TPP is to box in China, and that's why it specifically focuses on the Pacific Rim. One of the other things about the TPP is that it's being negotiated between the United States and 11 other countries, but any country that borders the Pacific Ocean can join in once it's in place.

All that has to happen then is for the other signatories to agree to it and they have to come in compliance with the agreement that is for any new country that gets added. If this agreement is going to exist, it's going to need to have very strong provisions for labor and protection of LGBT people. A large number of countries border on the Pacific and a great number of those countries are horrible human-rights violators.

For more info on Pride at Work, visit The letter to President Obama can be read at .

This article shared 3247 times since Tue Jul 15, 2014
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